Quiet Harmony, a collection of Mary Hiester Reid’s work now touring Canada, has stopped by Concordia’s Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery.
The exhibit, curated by Concordia’s own professors Brian Foss and Janice Anderson, showcases the work of the late Mary Hiester Reid, an often forgotten and rare Canadian talent from the early 1900’s.
Although born an American in 1854, Reid spent all her adult life in and around Toronto, and she is considered as one of Canada’s finest painters.
Because of the later success of the Group of Seven, as well as the fact that Reid was a woman professional in the early 1900’s, she was neglected for many years.
Both Foss and Andersen have worked hard to bring Reid back to the spotlight to receive the credit she so humbly deserves.
They have spent much of the last three years researching and compiling Reid’s works, forty-five of which can be seen in the exhibit at Concordia’s Library Building.
Reid, along with her husband, famed Canadian painter George Reid, made their home in Toronto’s Wychwood Park.
As both an elected member of the Ontario Society of Artists and an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy (women were not allowed to be elected), Reid was instrumental in building up the city’s blooming art community.
She was the first female painter to have a solo show, although it was a memorial, back in 1921 (shortly after her death) at the Art Gallery of Toronto. Since then, she has been banished into obscurity, omitted in Canadian art history.
During her thirty-five year career as a professional painter, Reid made certain subtle, but important contributions to the Canadian art scene. She painted mostly with oil paints as opposed to watercolours, which was the preferred technique at the time.
Although Reid was known widely as a flower painter, she also did many interiors, including much Japanese influence and design, as well as landscapes, which were not common for female painters.
Her works accentuated the relationship between colour and form, as well as artistic arrangement. She drew greatly from the Tonalist style as well as the impressionists to create a characteristically dark and poetic atmosphere.
As explained by Sophia Wolkowicz, a tour guide at the gallery, Reid painted and made art for art’s sake. “By quickening the viewer to see and feel the power of beauty in everyday objects,” Reid’s works exuded a deep and personal self-expression evident to even the most uneducated observer. With the help of Foss and Anderson, Reid’s grace and warmth, as manifested in her paintings, will hopefully not be forgotten any time soon.